Mikel Arteta believes Premier League officiating has improved since his “strong” criticism of VAR following Arsenal’s defeat at Newcastle in November.

The Spaniard labelled the decision to allow Anthony Gordon’s goal to stand in a 1-0 loss at St James’ Park as “embarrassing” and a “disgrace”.

Arteta was later charged by the FA for breaking Rule E3.1 – which could have resulted in a ban but was instead cleared in December.

Arsenal now host Newcastle on Saturday looking to keep up the pace in the Premier League title race, as well as bounce back from their 1-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat in Porto on Wednesday.

Asked if he had seen an improvement in officiating and VAR since his post-match rant – which was backed up by an official statement from the club – Arteta replied: “Well that is what we all wanted.

“That at the end the decisions are better and I think the last stats that came across show that there was a significant improvement and a lot of the decisions they were getting right, so hopefully that is the case and we continue to do that.

“I talked the way I felt. I was very straight and I did it in a way that was pretty strong but within the law because I didn’t get charged for it and I think that tells the story.”

After impressive away wins at West Ham and Burnley, Arsenal suffered defeat in Portugal on Wednesday night to leave their Champions League progression in the balance.

Porto did a great job of slowing the game down at the Estadio do Dragao, with 36 fouls awarded – a Champions League record this season – before Galeno hit a last-gasp winner.

Speaking after the game, Declan Rice said that Arsenal need to improve their “savviness” while Arteta admits his players need to develop their level of streetwise.

“Yes, we certainly can develop a lot of things and those experiences are really relevant to judge whether we were or we weren’t,” he replied when asked if the team need to improve their darks arts.

“I believed that they did a lot of things right. But managing games and things like that, we can still improve.

“But in a year’s time for sure we can still improve and we can improve in our build-up phase and we can improve in our restarts. We can improve in many areas.

“I don’t know if it is about (being) a bad guy but you have to be tricky, you have to be smart, you have to be streetwise and you have to try to take advantages in every situation. They know that.
“That’s a thing that has to be developed – you don’t have it, that’s for sure. The best teams, the best players, they have that.”

Arteta revealed that Thomas Partey could return on Saturday evening, with a number of other recent injury absentees pushing to be in contention.

Partey has not played since suffering a thigh injury in October, while Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko could also return – while Takehiro Tomiyasu is still out.

Arteta also offered up good news on Jurrien Timber’s return – the summer signing having been out since suffering a serious knee injury on his Premier League debut in August.

Asked if Timber could play again this season, the Spaniard said: “I really hope so. He’s doing really well.

“He’s been with some players on the pitch. He’s going to start to do some bits with us on the pitch in the next week or so.

“Then we’ll have to see how he’s doing, his confidence level, his fitness level. Hopefully the answer will be yes.”

Classic Chase winner My Silver Lining will head to Haydock on Saturday for the Virgin Bet Grand National Trial, rather than wait for next week’s Eider Chase at Newcastle which was her original target.

While the ground is heavy at both tracks, Lavelle sees little point in waiting a week with her mare, who she reports to be “absolutely flying” on the gallops.

Only out of the first two once in her last six races, the improving eight-year-old jumped with aplomb at Warwick and held off Galia Des Liteaux to win the £100,000 race and she is now chasing another major prize.

“She’s absolutely flying. Our original plan was to go to the Eider, so we discussed it today and it came down to the fact they are both going to be run on heavy ground – so do we want to run over three and a half this week or wait a week to run over four-and-a-quarter,” said Lavelle.

“We only made the entry for Haydock as a bit of a back-up originally, but we just can’t guarantee the ground will be any better next week and with an extra half a mile in that ground, it’s a lost to ask of the mare.

“I wouldn’t be worried about any track for her, but anywhere where jumping is at a premium suits her.”

Graham Lee has thanked the racing community for their support as he begins to make plans to move home following the injuries he sustained in a fall last year.

The Grand National and Group One-winning jockey was unseated by his mount when leaving the stalls at Newcastle in November.

He suffered a serious spinal injury and the sport has rallied around him and his family since, raising over £188,000 via JustGiving for the Injured Jockeys Fund.

Currently at the Spinal Unit at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesborough, Lee is planning to adapt his house in order to move home and released a statement via the IJF.

It read: “It’s three months now since my accident and I thought it was appropriate for me to say something publicly for the first time.

“Frankly, I’ve been overwhelmed by the unbelievable support and good wishes sent by everyone and I’d like to thank you all so much on behalf of myself, my wife Becky and our children, Amy and Robbie.

“It feels like I’m in a bit of a bubble here at the James Cook Spinal Unit but the girls share with me all the messages that they are receiving and every single one is appreciated, as is the support of my great friends who continue to visit me so regularly and keep my spirits up.

“I never really considered that I had achieved that much as a jockey and it seems crazy that so many people are thinking of us all. I can’t deny it has been – and continues to be – hard for us all, but these messages help us all so much.

“I would also like to thank the team of nurses here who are just unbelievable in the around the clock care and support they offer us all.

“As most of you know, the injuries I have suffered are life-changing and there is a long road ahead. But we have just received planning permission so that work can start to adapt our home in the hope that I will be able to leave hospital at some stage in the next few months.

“Thank you again. I am truly humbled and grateful.”

A race at Thursday’s evening meeting at Newcastle has been moved to Saturday’s card after it was scheduled to be run after sunset on a section of the track that is not covered by floodlights.

The Find More Big Deals At BetUK Handicap was due to be run over 10 furlongs with a start time of 5.05pm, with sunset just before 5pm in Newcastle.

A statement from the British Horseracing Authority read: “The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Arena Racing Company (ARC) can confirm that the Find More Big Deals At BetUK Handicap, which was due to be staged at Newcastle at 5.05pm today, has been postponed and will be run as part of Saturday’s card at the same venue.

“This move has been agreed after it was identified this morning that the race, which is scheduled to take place over 1m2f42y on the round course, was due to go off after sunset. Only the straight course at Newcastle is covered by floodlights, meaning that it would not be safe to stage the race as planned due to low light.

“The BHA’s General Instructions state that in no circumstances will a race time be altered so that a race is run earlier than the advertised race time. This is due to the implications for the betting public, alongside potential regulatory, safety and logistical issues. While alternative solutions were explored, the decision has ultimately been made to postpone the race.

“Connections of the 10 declared runners have been contacted by the BHA to advise of this change, as well as to offer an apology and a reimbursement payment to assist with costs incurred in having made arrangements for the race to be staged as planned.”

The BHA confirmed that while declarations will stand, non-runners will be allowed without penalty, adding: “We are sorry for any inconvenience and confusion resulting from this error. We will now take steps to identify what caused this issue to ensure it is not repeated.”

Brian Ellison, trainer of one of the favourites Explorers Way, said: “The BHA rang me to explain, what can you do?

“It’s the sort of mistake that if I’d made it, I’d get fined, but it won’t make much difference to us.”

Kieran Trippier says Bayern Munich’s interest is a “compliment” but insists he remains fully committed to Newcastle.

The Magpies reportedly rejected a bid from the German champions to pry the England international away from the north east this month.

Trippier reiterated that Bayern’s interest has not put him off from being an integral player for Eddie Howe’s side, insisting he wants to make history.

Speaking after Newcastle’s 2-0 FA Cup victory over Fulham, Trippier said: “It’s always a compliment when a team like Bayern come in for you but I want to make history with the club, win a trophy and help the club grow for as long as possible.

“I hope everybody knows my commitment to this club. It has not changed since I first arrived. It’s a transfer window, things happen, it’s not put me off or anything. I’m at Newcastle.

“Things happen in the background. I had loads of conversations with the manager, everything was positive, nothing has changed and I’m committed to Newcastle.”

Newcastle will need to sell players in order to comply with the Premier League’s profit and sustainability regulations.

Trippier credited the professionalism of his team-mates despite several members of the squad drawing interest from potential suitors.

He added: “It’s a transfer window. The players are committed and nothing will change.

“We have a great squad, I’ve spoken about the togetherness in our group. Nothing will take us off track.

“Loads of rumours go round and it didn’t put us off tonight.

“We can only focus on what we do on the pitch and what goes on in the background goes on in the background.”

Trippier endured a difficult December period which included a mistake leading to a goal and a penalty miss during Newcastle’s Carabao Cup exit to Chelsea.

The right-back showed signs of his best on Saturday, delivering dangerous crosses into the box in the lead up to goals from Sean Longstaff and Dan Burn.

Trippier said: “I’m happy to stand here and say I’ve gone through some bad moments, it’s not like we do it on purpose, it happens.

“I’ve been in this situation in my career before but I just hope this is the turning point and I know I can do better.

“I recognise when I’m in a bad moment but it’s a new year and a new chapter.”

Ben Pauling is confident Handstands will make the long journey to the north east worthwhile when he puts his unbeaten record on the line at Newcastle on Saturday.

A winner on his Irish point-to-point debut in October, the five-year-old subsequently went under the hammer at the Tattersalls Cheltenham Sale the following month and was knocked down for £135,000.

It did not take him long to make a successful debut under rules for for his new connections and it was impossible to be anything but impressed by the way he readily shook off his rivals at Hereford.

A penalty means he must give 7lb away in the Quinnbet Best Odds Guaranteed Novices’ Hurdle, but Pauling expects him to prove up to the task when he embarks on the near 500-mile round trip from his Gloucestershire yard as the trainer’s sole runner on the card.

He said: “He’s a lovely horse with plenty of ability and he’ll handle the ground. I think he’s quite versatile and I think he’s got a bright future.

“Hopefully it’s a good opportunity for him to get another win under his belt and a bit more experience and we could possibly look at qualifying him for the EBF Final or something like that. He might be better than that, I’m not sure, but I think he’s a nice horse with a bright future ahead of him.

“He’s very much a chaser, but hopefully he’ll be competitive in a few nicer races over hurdles later in the season.”

Handstands will be a hot favourite for the second of four races at Newcastle that will now take place in front of the ITV cameras following the abandonment of racing at Sandown.

The first is the QuinnBet Acca Bonus Novices’ Hurdle, in which Martin Todhunter’s recent Carlisle winner Forged Well meets Lucinda Russell’s Bangor runner-up Two Auld Pals.

Local trainer Rebecca Menzies is no stranger to success at Gosforth Park and she will be hoping previous course winner Attention All can get his season up and running in the Quinnbet Acca Bonus Handicap Chase, having failed to trouble the judge in two previous outings this term.

Mark Walford has a couple of chances in the concluding quinnbet.com Handicap Hurdle, with top-weight Tommy Johnson and stablemate Amber Gold both declared.

Walford said: “We’ve been happy with Tommy Johnson’s first few runs. He was second at Carlisle and then we ran him back too soon when he was pulled up at Hexham.

“He’s been progressing nicely and I was quite happy with his run at Catterick last time (finished fifth). I don’t think Catterick would quite be his track, but Newcastle should suit him well and he’s in good form, so we’re expecting a decent run.

“It’s Amber Gold’s first run of the season and she hasn’t run for a long time. She’s been going well at home, but we’d expect her to probably come on a bit for the run.”

Nicky Henderson is unconcerned about the lack of a recent run for Constitution Hill ahead of his bid for back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle.

On what Henderson sees as the first day of a “new term” for his star pupil, he will belatedly get his season under way at Kempton on Boxing Day, with the weather having scuppered an intended defence of the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

The Seven Barrows trainer flirted with the idea of running the six-year-old in a rescheduled Fighting Fifth at Sandown seven days later, but ultimately branded the prospect of running in heavy ground just over a fortnight before his festive target as “physically not possible”.

“That (Newcastle) was the original plan and that is where he would have been, and we would have been on the same leg as last year. Unfortunately, we are not,” said Henderson.

“He was ready for Newcastle, and he is ready for Kempton. He is big and well and strong, he came in looking very well. At one stage I was a bit behind as he was so big.

“It took a bit longer to get the shape back into him, but that is long gone. He has had to do a bit more work as it is all very easy to him. His schooling is unbelievable.

“As we have always said, his temperament is such that it (journey to Newcastle) wouldn’t make any difference to him and he’s had an away day.

“If he comes through this and it goes like last year I’d be confident about the next bit. But the first day out of the year is crucial, it’s like a first day at school. He’s been good at home, but there are new kids on the block and he’s starting a new term.

“He has got to be as good as he ever was at Kempton, then we can look forward.”

With the privilege of training a horse of Constitution Hill’s stature comes no little amount of pressure, but it is something Henderson embraces.

He added: “If you guys (press) didn’t want to talk to us or there was no pressure then it would be time to give up as you have nothing to talk about.

“Sprinter Sacre was in this position when he was at his best. When he was in his first innings and at his absolute pomp, he was seriously unbeatable.”

Constitution Hill will be extremely cramped odds to dispatch of his Kempton rivals, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Rubaud seemingly his biggest threat.

The five-year-old is unbeaten in his last four starts, having landed the Dovecote at Kempton, the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, a Listed prize at Kempton and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton – but Nicholls is well aware his latest assignment is an extremely difficult one.

He told Betfair: “He is going to be an awesome chaser next season, but his form over hurdles is so progressive he deserves a shot at this Grade One prize.

“While he has won his last four starts I realise he probably faces an impossible task against Constitution Hill, but we are giving it a go and if he finishes second we will be delighted.”

Henderson has a second string to his bow in First Street, while Kerry Lee has declared both Nemean Lion and Black Poppy.

Alan King’s admirable veteran Sceau Royal completes the field.

What the papers say

Juventus could have the upper hand in signing Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips as the 28-year-old wants guarantees over his playing time before choosing a club, the Telegraph reports. This gives the Italian side a slight advantage over Newcastle as Phillips hopes to impress before next summer’s European Championship.

Arsenal are leading Chelsea and Tottenham in the race to sign suspended Brentford striker Ivan Toney, the Independent reports, with the striker expected to be valued at upwards of £60million. The 27-year-old was suspended for eight months due to breaching betting rules.

Manchester United have identified 22-year-old Real Sociedad winger Takefusa Kubo to replace Brazil’s Antony, according to The Sun. The Japan international has scored six goals so far for the Spanish side.

Tottenham and the Red Devils will have to fork out a hefty fee if they are to pursue Everton under-21 defender Jarrad Branthwaite, who has been priced at £100million.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Raphael Varane: ESPN says Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag wants to keep the 30-year-old defender at the club, despite interest from Real Madrid.

Jadon Sancho: The out-of-favour Manchester United winger has been identified by German clubs Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and Stuttgart, 90Min reports.

Nicky Henderson has confirmed Shishkin will join esteemed stablemate Constitution Hill on the trip to Newcastle to contest Saturday’s BetMGM Rehearsal Chase.

With the multiple Grade One winner having refused to start in last weekend’s 1965 Chase at Ascot, the Seven Barrows handler admitted to being in a quandary as to what to do with his star chaser as he looks to get his season back on track ahead of a planned tilt at the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

With alternative options limited, Henderson revealed on Sunday that Shishkin could make a swift reappearance in the north east, with Constitution Hill already making the long journey from Lambourn to Gosforth Park as he looks to secure back-to-back victories in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

And while a lofty rating of 173 means Shishkin will have to carry 12 stone and concede upwards of 21lb to each of his rivals in Saturday’s finale, he has been given the go ahead to take his chance.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, Henderson said: “Just to keep everybody informed, Shishkin will run in the Rehearsal Chase on Saturday.

“Everything is fine with him, and he’ll travel up to Newcastle on Friday with Constitution Hill.”

Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed that Christopher Nkunku will not be fit to be involved in Chelsea’s visit to Newcastle on Saturday.

There had been hopes that the £52million summer signing from RB Leipzig would have sufficiently recovered from the knee injury he sustained on the pre-season tout of the United States to play a part at St James’ Park.

But, despite being fit enough to have taken part in training with the first team, the 26-year-old has not worked tactically with the squad and will not travel.

Chelsea struggled without the France international in Pochettino’s first Premier League games in charge, with the goalscoring problems that he had been acquired to help solve carrying over from a tumultuous campaign last season during which the team scored fewer league goals than they had in almost a century.

Those issues have become less urgent in recent weeks, with four goals scored on three separate occasions against Burnley, Tottenham and Manchester City.

By contrast, the team had not previously scored four times in a game since April 2022.

“(Nkunku) was doing things with the group last week,” said Pochettino. “But he’s not fully recovered to be part of the squad.

“He’s a fantastic player, top scorer in the Bundesliga last season. He can play different positions, his quality is amazing. It’s really bad luck to lose him from the beginning of the season.

“We’re going to find the best way for him to fit in the team. He’s going to find massive competition. His team-mates are ahead of him, they’ve had four months of competition. He needs to build his form and be at his best level.

“We need to understand he’s coming back from injury, he will need time. We will be patient with him.

“It’s not a competition (the Premier League) that he’s normally used to. He came from Europe, he needs to recover from injury but also to know the league. It’ll take time to perform at his best.”

Pochettino confirmed that Romeo Lavia, signed in the last week of the transfer window from Southampton for £53m, is also nearing fitness but is slightly behind the progress made by Nkunku.

Wesley Fofana has trained on grass at Cobham as he continues his rehabilitation from an ACL injury, though is unlikely to be available before the new year.

Chelsea had come into form prior to the international break with five wins from eight in all competitions, a run which saw them score 19 times having previously netted only seven in their first seven under Pochettino.

The manager is hopeful that the pause will not have disrupted his side’s rhythm ahead of their visit to face Eddie Howe’s side.

“The break came at a bad time,” he said. “It came in a moment we were building a way to play, results were on our side. But I believe we can keep momentum even after two weeks with no competition.”

Pochettino added that the squad has held group discussions about why performances and results have been better this season against the stronger teams – draws with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City and victory over Spurs – while there have been home losses to Brentford, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa.

“It’s part of the process,” he said. “We’re a young team, we started to work four months ago. We need to be more mature, more patient. We cannot get frustrated so soon when things don’t work.

“Expectation creates nervousness when you play a team with less quality than you. You take rushed decisions, get frustrated. You want to do the job of your team-mate.”

Graham Lee has undergone surgery at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle after a serious fall last week, with his daughter Amy thanking the racing world for its “overwhelming” support.

The Grand National and Group One-winning jockey was unseated from Ben Macdui at the start of an all-weather handicap at Newcastle on Friday, suffering injuries that saw him taken to hospital and admitted to an intensive care unit.

He has since been identified as having an unstable cervical fracture causing damage to his spinal cord, and the racing world has rallied round the rider and his family.

The Injured Jockeys Fund have been heavily involved in those efforts, and on Wednesday afternoon released an update which read: “Jockey Graham Lee had surgery yesterday at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle to stabilise the fractures in his cervical spine and further protect his spinal cord.

“He also had a tracheostomy performed to allow him to be more comfortable and improve communication.

“Whilst Graham has recovered from the surgery well, the extent of his long-term recovery remains uncertain.”

The statement added: “Graham’s family would like to thank everyone for their best wishes and for their support of the JustGiving page set up by Graham’s 18-year-old daughter Amy, who says: ‘I am personally writing down each and every message and donation that comes through and I share all of these with dad. To be honest it’s simply overwhelming and we can’t believe that so many people are thinking of us. I wish I could explain how much of a difference it will make to dad’s recovery knowing that he has your support – thank you from the bottom of my heart’.”

The JustGiving page created by Amy Lee is now approaching £80,000 in donations that will go to the IJF.

Constitution Hill could face up to 12 rivals when he makes his seasonal comeback in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in December.

Nicky Henderson’s gelding is unbeaten under rules and is the undisputed star of the hurdling division, winning all seven starts and among them six Grade Ones.

He was last seen claiming back-to-back successes at the big spring festivals, winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and then the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles before heading off on a summer break.

A graduation to chasing was discussed and ultimately vetoed, meaning the six-year-old will take a familiar route through the division by starting out in the Fighting Fifth – a race he won by 12 lengths last year.

“He’ll go straight to the Fighting Fifth, that’s December 2, hopefully we’re all ready for that,” Henderson told Racing TV.

There are 12 others engaged, amongst them is Jamie Snowden’s You Wear It Well, a Cheltenham Festival winner who made light work of her seasonal debut when winning Wetherby’s Listed bet365 Mares’ Hurdle by three lengths at the weekend.

There is a programme of valuable mares’ events throughout the term and that is the path the six-year-old is likely to follow, though the Fighting Fifth option remains open for now.

“She did really well, she was carrying a penalty first time out and it’s always nice to see them stepping up to the mark like that,” Snowden said of her Wetherby run.

“The mares’ route maps itself out, from Sandown to Warwick to Cheltenham in March. Sandown is in January, so the question is whether we think about getting a run into her before then.

“I have just put an entry for the Fighting Fifth this morning, I’m not sure we’d want to be taking on Constitution Hill necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt to put an entry in.”

Harry Fry’s Love Envoi is another mare entered, with Kerry Lee responsible for a duo of entrants in Black Poppy and Nemean Lion.

Sandy Thomson has put forward Benson and Phil Kirby has entered Jason The Militant, whereas Hughie Morrison could saddle the dual-purpose gelding Not So Sleepy, who dead-heated with Epatante in 2021.

Alan King’s Sceau Royal is another seasoned campaigner with an entry, alongside which Brian Ellison has entered Salsada, James Owen has Too Friendly and Iain Jardine has Voix Du Reve.

The VirginBet November Handicap will now be run at Newcastle next Saturday after Doncaster’s final Flat meeting of the year was switched to the all-weather track.

Town Moor is currently unraceable due to waterlogging and, with no significant chance of improvement, approval has been given to transfer the card to the North-East venue.

Arena Racing Company’s Mark Spincer said: “The VirginBet November Handicap is a really popular fixture at the end of the turf season in Britain.

“It is a huge shame to lose the fixture at Doncaster, but there is simply no chance that the track will be in a position to be fit for racing in time.

“Doncaster raced on very heavy ground at the Kameko Futurity meeting just over a week ago, and we have seen significant rainfall since then, with anywhere between 25mm and 50mm more forecast through the coming week.

“We appreciate the impact on those looking for a final opportunity on the turf before the season comes to a close, but the track will simply not be ready in time.

“We would like to thank our colleagues at BHA, as well as sponsors VirginBet and the European Breeders Fund and to ITV and Sky Sports Racing for facilitating this move.”

What the papers say

Newcastle United will look to bolster their midfield with Al Hilal’s former Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, The Sun reports. The move comes after Newcastle’s Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali was banned for 10 months for betting breaches.

Chelsea are looking to sign teenage midfielder Gavi, who may leave Barcelona due to financial restrictions. The Daily Express says Barcelona could sell the Spaniard for £87million. Gavi has played in two of three Champions League games so far this season and 10 times in La Liga.

Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo is reportedly ready to sign a new long-term deal with the club after boss Marco Silva signed a new contract, according to the Standard.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Julian Alvarez: Manchester City would only sell the 23-year-old Argentinian forward for £80million or more, Football Insider reports.

Kevin de Bruyne: Football Insider also says Saudi Pro League clubs are interested in bringing the 32-year-old Manchester City midfielder to the league in 2024.

What the papers say

Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe is catching the eyes of Premier League rivals. According to the Daily Mirror, Newcastle are keen on the 23-year-old England international.

Manchester City could benefit if Liverpool make a move for their former winger Leroy Sane, 27. A sell-on clause means City will make more than £8 million if the German international makes the mover from Bayern Munich to Anfield.

Eric Dier could be handed a way out of his Tottenham exile in January, according to The Sun. The England defender, 29, has not played under new manager Ange Postecoglou but could head to Roma for a reunion with former boss Jose Mourinho.

Scott McTominay appears to be going nowhere in January. The Manchester United midfielder, 26, came close to a £50 million move to West Ham in the summer, but the Daily Star reports manager Erik ten Hag has ruled out any new-year deal.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Tomas Soucek: Inter Milan are being linked to the Czech midfielder, 28, but West Ham are looking to step up talks on a new contract.

Florian Wirtz: Barcelona and Bayern Munich are both keen on the 20-year-old Germany midfielder at Bayer Leverkusen.

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